1. Prince Fielder will hit fewer than 30 home runs
Why this is bold: The hefty slugger has blasted at least 32 dingers in each of last five seasons, averaging 40 per year over that stretch. You'd have to go all the way back to 2006, his rookie year, to find a full season where he failed to clear the fences 30 times (he finished with 28 that year). After changing leagues, signing a huge deal and moving to a park that hurts his power numbers, I think Fielder will have somewhat of an off year in his Tigers debut.
2. The Red Sox will make the playoffs
Why this is bold: Everyone and their mother (except for ESPN's David Schoenfield) has the same five teams coming out of the AL with the Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, and Angels. I'm not sold on the Rays because their lineup is average at best and James Shields/Jeremy Hellickson will regress some. These Sox are basically the same team (sans Jonathan Papelbon) that everybody predicted to win the World Series twelve months ago, and for most of the season they were the best team in baseball. Give them some credit, people.
|Boston will bounce back and return to the postseason for the first time in 3 years|
3. Andrew Bailey will save more games than Jonathan Papelbon
Why this is bold: Over his three big league seasons Bailey has averaged 25 saves per year, topping out at 26 during his 2009 Rookie of the Year campaign. Over that same time frame, Cinco-Ocho has averaged ten more saves per year and his 31 from last season represented a career low.
4. Evan Longoria will win the American League Most Valuable Player award
Why this is bold: Longo has never finishEd Higher than sixth in the balloting, and will have to compete against some stiff competition in Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, and the reigning MVP Justin Verlander. Longoria also has the disadvantages of playing half his games in a pitcher's park and hitting in the middle of an average lineup at best.
5. Ichiro Suzuki will eclipse ten home runs and a .310 batting average
Why this is bold: Ichiro is coming off the worst season of his career, which included single season lows in both batting average (.272) and home runs (five). He's 38 years old and has reached double digits in the long ball department just three times in eleven seasons, most recently in 2009.
6. Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Francisco Liriano all return to form and bring the Twins back up over .500
Why this is bold: The Minnesota Twins lost 99 games last year, largely because their three best players, plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness, combined to produce 1.3 bWAR.
Liriano (0.7 bWAR) 24 starts 9-10 record 5.09 ERA 1.49 WHIP
Mauer (1.4 bWAR) 82 games 3 home runs 30 RBI .287/.360/.368
Morneau (-0.8 bWAR) 69 games 4 home runs 30 RBI .227/.285/.333
The trio of All-Stars looked totally lost in 2011, but don't write them off just yet. Mauer and Morneau are former AL MVPs, and Liriano earned Cy Young consideration in 2010. If they all bounce back, Minnesota should quickly erase any lingering pain from their lost season a year ago.
|Johnson has the talent, but needs|
to stay healthy
Why this is bold: Miami's ace is incredibly injury prone; he made nine starts last year and has started more than 30 games just once in his seven year career. The Senior Circuit is loaded with elite hurlers like Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, and Zack Greinke, all former winners.
8. The Reds will win the NL Central
Why this is bold: The 2010 division champs played sub .500 ball last year, going 79-83 and finishing 17 games out of first. The Brewers and reigning 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals will be tough to beat.
9. Someone other than Michael Bourn will lead the Senior Circuit in stolen bases
Why this is bold: Bourn's swiped more bags than anyone else in the NL for three straight years, and in 2011 he had 21 more thefts then the second place guys (Matt Kemp, Drew Stubbs, Emilio Bonifacio, and Cameron Maybin, all tied with 40). That's nearly 35 percent better than the runner-up, which would be like if Giancarlo hits 50 home runs this year and nobody else socks more than 33. In other words, he completely dominates the competition.
10. Ryan Braun wins the MVP award, again, in 2012
Why this is bold:
-Joey Votto is the preseason favorite
-Braun is coming off a "tumultuous" offseason that created a media firestorm and placed him under the microscope
-He no longer gets to bat in front of Prince Fielder (although Aramis Ramirez is nothing to sneeze at)
-No baseball player has won consecutive MVPs since Pujols turned the trick in 2008-2009. Braun is a great player, but he is no Pujols
|Braun will post monster numbers and push the Brewers back into the playoffs|
Why this is bold: San Diego's new closer has averaged 24 saves per year over the past five seasons, and has never finished in the top three in that category. His career high is 37, and that came all the way back in 2006.
12. The Diamondbacks finish third in the NL West
Why this is bold: They won 94 games and took their divisional crown with an eight game lead over the second place Giants. The Snakes have an MVP candidate in Justin Upton, a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Ian Kennedy/Daniel Hudson, an elite closer in J.J. Putz, and a talented supporting cast (Miguel Montero, Trevor Cahill, Jason Kubel, Josh Collmenter, Aaron Hill).